You can always spot a Smitty because of its unusual shape. Think of it as a burger hoagie, with an oblong patty on a long French roll. The ingredients can fluctuate, depending on who’s making it, but the Smitty usually includes iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, dill pickle chips and thick-sliced onions. It always should come with a piquant burger spread.
The burger with deep Tacoma roots has fallen off menus almost everywhere, but I spotted its reappearance in the Lincoln neighborhood. Amp, a coffee house and frozen yogurt cafe, added the Smitty to its menu a few weeks ago.
It’s been some years since it’s been served in that location. Amp operates where Jubilee once grilled Smitty burgers, fries and shakes (the giant orange Jubilee sign still looms over the building). Amp opened in 2014 by Jason and Tina Maggard, who also own The Freeze frozen yogurt shop in University Place.
Amp’s version of the Smitty ($3.95, listed as a deluxe on the menu) gets the components right, for the most part, with leaf iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice and thick-cut onions. The bread-to-meat ratio skewed in favor of the French roll. I like my patty a little beefier. Pickles and grilled onions were available upon request. I’m fond of Amp’s puckery burger spread, which is a hallmark for the Smitty burgers that are still served at Marcia’s Silver Spoon, Don’s Drive-In and The Goofy Goose. Marcia’s version ($9.49) of the Smitty still is my favorite. At Marcia’s, it comes with grilled onions and a beefier patty than you’ll find at most other restaurants still making the Smitty.
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The Smitty also is around other Tacoma restaurants, it’s just called something else. Mountain Pub’s Mountain burger is based on the original Smitty burger.
For neophytes, the Smitty burger was regionally famous 50-something years ago when it appeared on menus throughout the South Sound. The Smitty burger can be traced to burger restaurants owned by Werner Schmid. Diners might have encountered it at one of the Kings Drive-Ins, or in its earliest incarnation at Zarelli’s.